11/18/11 2:56 PM EST
Marlins aggressively pursuing top talent
New ballpark, increased revenue leads to new approach
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Marlins officials met with a number of agents, along with several teams, during their stay in Milwaukee. The team has made it clear it is raising payroll, and it is willing to spend top dollar on high-profile free agents.
Free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes reportedly has a preliminary offer of six years, $90 million on the table. And first baseman Albert Pujols was presented a deal, reportedly for nine years. The exact amount is said to be less than what the Cardinals had previously presented.
Lefty Mark Buehrle also is a prime target, as the Marlins are looking to add two proven starters to their rotation.
"The way we're doing business is different," team president David Samson said this week on "The Dan LeBatard Show" on the team's flagship station, 790 The Ticket. "We still have to be smart. We still can't make up for injuries. We're definitely going to have a higher payroll, but we need the players to perform and we need them to be good.
"The way we've done business is trying to get by with our revenue streams, and now our revenue streams are higher. We have a larger pool of talent available to us than we've ever had."
Pressed on if the payroll would exceed $100 million, Samson responded that it's not likely.
Reyes and Buehrle remain more realistic options for Miami than Pujols, the prize of the free-agent class. But the Marlins feel they've made a substantial initial offer to the slugger, who reportedly has reopened talks with the Cardinals.
The Marlins brought Pujols to Miami last week and gave him a tour of their new stadium.
"If you talk about a player who's 30 or 31, we can talk about Albert, he is the best hitter in the game and he's going to be the best hitter in the game, in our mind, for a long time to come," Samson said on the radio show. "That doesn't necessarily mean we would or would not offer nine years. It just means we evaluate him as the best hitter. The numbers speak for themselves if you look over the past decade, and what you expect to take place over the next period of time."
Starting pitching remains a high priority for the club. At the General Manager Meetings, the team had discussions with the agents of C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt.
Most likely, the Marlins will look to add a starter through free agency, and obtain another via trade. Miami covets Tampa Bay's James Shields and Oakland lefty Gio Gonzalez, who grew up in the Miami area.
In past years, the Marlins were reluctant to part with their top prospects in making trades. That stance has changed as the team is willing to make the necessary moves for established players in hopes of becoming a contender next year.